It was almost Thanksgiving so there was nothing odd about seeing a woman outside the grocery store with a brightly labeled box cradled firmly under her arm, almost as if carrying a football: “Greenberg Smoked Turkey.”
Ordinary enough sight but it set off a strange set of random thoughts about the holidays.
“You mean you’ve never had a Greenberg Turkey?” asked my late friend Sonny Murphy of Hubbard, Texas.
I had not, with me being from, you know, the North and all that when I moved to Fort Worth in the mid-1980s.
“You’ll never eat anything but a Greenberg once you’ve had one,” he assured me.
You can now buy them in Fort Worth but not back then. And online shopping wasn’t even a germ of an idea at that point.
Sonny allowed as how he would drive to Tyler to get me a Greenberg for the holidays. Like virtually everything he did, the quest to deliver me a Greenberg Turkey turned into an odyssey.
Sonny said I would have the turkey for Thanksgiving and phoned as he departed for Tyler to pick it up. I’d have two days before the holiday and the bird would be on my doorstep by 6 p.m.
Day passed into night and then into day again after the first promised delivery date.
“I bought five turkeys but on the way to Fort Worth I remembered several friends and gave them all away,” he said.
Come Christmas, he vowed, I would have a Greenberg.
There were at least five days that I counted when Sonny was going to deliver. Each time he gave my turkey away before he made it to Fort Worth.
Two days before Christmas he guaranteed delivery.
He phoned on Christmas Eve.
“I couldn’t get you a turkey,” he said, “so I bought you a nice ham.”
When will I get it, I asked?
“That’s the problem,” he said. “I had it in the back of my pickup to keep it cold and Hank jumped up and ate it.”
“My friend’s dog.”
There were several other holidays that came and went with a promised Greenberg that never quite made it to my house. Then, Sonny died tragically and young in a ranch accident.
I’m yet to eat a Greenberg Turkey.
Seeing the woman coming out of the grocery store with the turkey reminded me of how much fun those holidays were with this whole series of undelivered promises and turkeys. The excuses became wilder as time went on.
I enjoyed not getting the turkey more than I wanted one.
And the reminiscence of the Greenberg Turkey drama caused me to look back on my holidays. The memories all were good, even those of one I spent relatively alone.
This season of holidays, Thanksgiving through Christmas, is always joyous for me. I don’t ever recall one that I did not enjoy and it causes me sadness when I hear of others who dread the holidays.
Perhaps, I thought, it’s not specific incidents or even moments of tension-filled family drama (which often are natural during the holidays) that define your memories of good times and bad.
Maybe we just need to adhere to the simple-but-wise philosophy espoused by legendary basketball coach John Wooden:
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
I’m getting a Greenberg for Christmas.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org